BOOMING BUSINESS is what baby boomers are. Anyone from Tom Peters to Faith Popcorn to Wikipedia will be able to shower you with mouth-watering numbers and indicators, highlighting the amassed wealth of baby boomers in mature consumer societies around the world.
And let's not forget about dedicated boomer sites and blogs, from The Boomer Blog and Boomer Consumer to The Mature Market. Also, check out Focalyst (the AARP's research branch), the Mature Market Institute and 50plus, all keeping track of the ever more sophisticated needs and wants of cash AND time rich 50+ consumers seeking to get the most out of their second or third life. A quick rundown of the numbers:
Born between 1946 and 1964, boomers number some 450 million worldwide (source: MIT AgeLab).
The world's population is aging at a staggering rate. The 50+ population is the fastest growing segment worldwide and predicted life expectancies are at a historical high. An American turns 50 once every seven seconds. Within the next few years, 50% of the European Union's population will be 65+. By 2030, in Italy, retirees will outnumber active workers. By 2050, the median age in Thailand will rise to 50. (Source: MIT AgeLab.)
In the UK, over-50s are currently 20 million strong, growing fast, and hold 80% of the nation's wealth (source: BBC).
Estimated annual spending power of baby boomers is more than USD 2 trillion. Younger boomers (born 1956-1964) spend most of their money on their children and the mortgage. Older boomers (born 1946-1955), many of whom are empty nesters, put their money into upgrading their homes and on clothing, spending 13% and 11% more than average on women's and men's apparel, respectively. (Source: MetLife 2005.)
However, not ALL boomers are well-off: in a Focalyst study of more than 30,000 adults over the age of 42 in the US, only 1 in 10 baby boomers can be classified as Boomer Elites, defined as having an annual household pretax income of USD 150,000, or USD 100,000 if retired. Keep this in mind when dreaming up new products for and with this audience.
So what caught OUR eye?
Ringtones | The main attraction at Booseytones is its wide range of less pedestrian ringtones. Being the world's largest publisher of classical music, Boosey & Hawkes can draw from an immense catalogue of music by such distinguished 20th century composers as Stravinsky, Shostakovich, Britten, Adams and Reich. Previous centuries are represented by a host of venerable composers, from Handel to Tchaikovsky. After replacing Nokia's Gran Vals with a truetone version of Adam's Short Ride in a Fast Machine, dedicated followers of classical music (read: boomers) will also be pleased to swap standard cellphone wallpapers with a photograph of a pensive Prokofiev, or an engraving of Mozart's dapper silhouette. The company now has local sites for the US, UK and Germany. Which leaves plenty of space for expansion and competition.
Dating | With more boomers online than ever, and (online) dating becoming more accepted by romance-seeking boomers, the list of boomer-dating sites and related services will continue to grow exponentially.
The US is leading; check out sites like 55Alive, Senior Friend Finder, Prime Singles, Senior Match, Metrodate Seniors, Executive Senior Dating, and Age Match. But the appeal is global (when is it not in these global times!): French Meetic, the country's leader in online dating, recently launched Ulteem, a dating site that targets daters over 40, many of whom are turned off by the short-term nature of relationships at Meetic's main site. And then there are Dutch 50 Plus Match, Danish Senior Date and so on. If not something to start up yourself, than at least some good web space to advertise your dedicated baby boomer goods and services?
Now, the social network craze is not going to bypass silver surfers, either: Eons, a full-fledged social network and information portal for baby boomers, encourages them to celebrate life, get things done, learn and connect with other people over the age of 50. Eons now has 300,000 members. Other social networks for boomers include Friends Over 50, Second Prime, Over 50s and recently launched BOOMj and Wanobe (UK).
May the best one (yours?) win and sell to MySpace the moment that juggernaut realizes that their business needs to become more segmented?
Health | Health and boomers is another no-brainer: expect the number of DIY health monitoring services and first aid devices to skyrocket, as boomers and their families will do everything to prevent deteriorating health from messing up their 'third' life.
Check out the Philips HeartStart Home, a USD 1,150 defibrillator designed for use by virtually anyone to provide immediate treatment for sudden cardiac arrest. The device provides voice instructions that guide responders through every step of the defibrillation process, as well as reminding them to call for emergency help and providing CPR coaching. After a successful US launch, the device is now being sold in US, Canada, UK, Germany, Switzerland, Austria and the Netherlands.
Or what about the Exmocare wristwatch, which monitors the physical and emotional state of the wearer and notifies him/her or a care provider when there's an issue. (Note that the company is still looking for distributors and partners.)
For keeping tabs on blood pressure, the Braun SensorControl will do the trick.
And now that we're at it, why on earth has Target's ClearRx pill bottle, which is easier to hold, easier to read and easier on the eyes, STILL not been copied, improved on, partnered with, etc on a global scale? Come on!
Tryvertising | Get them when they're still junior senior citizens: upon retirement, Belgian boomers receive a Mediobox gift package full of useful gadgets, product samples and gift vouchers tailor-made for their specific needs. After all, trying out is the new advertising ;-)
Travel | Quirky Swedish travel company Rosa Bussarna (pink caravan) operates over twenty pink buses that travel around the world. Passengers embark on three to eight week trips. Two years ago, the company added trips exclusively targeted at people over 50, proving a success: today, Pink Caravan offers 14 trips solely targeted at youthful, adventurous baby boomers who want to relive their backpacking years. New travel services for boomers are plentiful: from Eldertreks to tripwiser.com. However, as travel ranks high on virtually every boomer's priority list, there's room for countless new travel concepts across the globe. One you can't go wrong with, if you focus and execute well.
Homes & housing | More housing-related inspiration: in Sweden, Nordic bank SEB offers a special mortgage designed for those who are 55 or older. With their home as security, customers can realize a part of the value that's locked into their houses or apartments (minimum 200,000 SEK). It doesn't hurt that many Swedish baby boomers have little or no mortgage on their apartments, while house prices have soared over the last few years. SEB's customers over 55 don't need to pay instalments, the interest is tax-deductible, and they are guaranteed to be able to stay in their homes for the rest of their lives. Since SEB gets a "security" percentage of the property, they too will benefit from a potential increase in value once the apartment sells. With real estate being the new currency, financial wizards should have fun with this from Cape Town to Copenhagen.
At the same time, millions of boomers will opt for swapping their old digs for serviced apartments and communities. Which is why the City of Burbank and Meta Housing Corporation have partnered to develop The Burbank Senior Artists Colony. A first-of-its-kind 141-unit senior apartment community, The Burbank Senior Artists Colony will feature a senior theatre group, senior independent film company, senior fine arts collective, an intergenerational arts program in partnership with the Burbank Unified School District, a resident-run internal cable TV station and the following amenities for artists in their second 50 years of creativity: 45-seat Theatre & Screening Room, Arts Studios & Classrooms, Computer Media Arts Centre, Digital Filmmaking Equipment, Digital Video Editing Bay, Read Aloud Library, Outdoor Performance Areas and an Art Gallery & Sculpture Garden.
Also take a look at Seoul Seniors Tower, Del Webb, and Residencia La Ciguena. The latter is for Dutch retirees who want to spend their golden years in warmer climates. As any trend guru will confirm: boomer real estate is where the real money is right now. You know, Dubai is the new Spain, Panama is the new Florida, and so on ;-)
Food | Upgrade everything! Boomers want convenience AND luxury, preferably combined in one appealing package. Which is what TASTE claims to deliver to mature foodies. Billing itself as the world's premier luxury canned food line, the company will soon start selling canned fish, fruits, nuts, candy and vegetables. From their website: “Premium hand-filleted Chinook Salmon from the Pacific Ocean. Ocean fresh-packed and dolphin safe. Incomparable quality, this fine salmon is the best we've ever tasted. Not farm raised, this delicious pink salmon is loaded with healthy Omega-3. Excellent for high-end dips and hors d'oeuvres. Quite simply the finest you'll ever encounter.” Repeat after us: EVERYTHING can be upgraded, made more attractive and command premium margins, and those boomers are happy to pony up a bit more for their indulgent third life ;-)
More food, targeting 'senior baby boomers' (aka matures): ConAgra's frozen food line Golden Cuisine, “formulated by geriatric specialists to fulfil government standards for senior nutrition and designed specifically for homebound seniors or their caregivers who have a limited ability to acquire meals by traditional means.” In addition to senior-friendly recipes, Golden Cuisine innovates with packaging that features easy-to-read large font type, online ordering options and home delivery through groups like Meals on Wheels Association of America and Coordinated Care Solutions-Care Guide. (Tip of the hat to Iconoculture.)
Fitness | Club 50 Fitness aims to provide a non-intimidating environment for men and women 50 and older who want to improve their fitness levels, both through structured thirty-minute workouts in their fitness centres and through a line of dietary supplements. The instructor-supervised group workouts are suitable for all levels of experience. They are designed to increase mobility and strength, as well as promote weight loss and improve blood pressure and balance—all areas of concern to this age group. Attention entrepreneurs: Club 50 is actively promoting franchise opportunities, with franchise fees at USD 24,900. Watch a video here. Lots of global expansion opps for this one.
Fashion | Readerwear is a specialty retailer in Vancouver that sells hundreds of fashion-forward, ready-to-wear reading glasses, which are a far cry from the inexpensive but unstylish varieties found in drugstores and department stores. “We recognized that today's baby boomer wasn't satisfied with the usual selection of reading glasses—they wanted more choice and more style, without having to pay a few hundred dollars for prescription glasses,” says the company, which also sells a limited range via their online store. Readerwear offers inexpensive yet high quality fashionable eyewear in up to 60 different styles in each diopter, compared to the handful of styles normally offered by drugstores. The company has two stores (Vancouver and Victoria) and is looking for franchisees in cities like Toronto and Calgary. Which of course shouldn't stop you from getting involved if you're based outside Canada.
DIY | Danish Mormor manages to cram multiple trends, small and big, into one business model. Nostalgia. Minipreneurs. Generation C. Storytelling. Knitting. Baby Boomers and Matures.
So what is it? An online store that sells baby and children's wear from the time when grandma herself was a wee lass. (Mormor.nu is Danish for Grandma.now). In fact, the company's employees stem from an era when everything was made by hand, the youngest employee being 68 years old. All products are handmade, from pure wool, alpaca wool or cotton. Old knitting and crochet techniques and patterns have been revived, and colours and materials updated, making the products meet modern demands for fashionable children's clothing, as well as for old-fashioned quality and honest materials. Cool touch: clothes come with a small nametag signed by the grandmother that made the item. Seniorpreneurs (and storytellers) unite!
Transportation | Driving Miss Daisy is a cab and companion service for senior citizens that takes them shopping, to doctor's appointments, social events, etc. The company prides itself on providing extra care and security to its elderly customers, at affordable prices. Driving Miss Daisy currently has seven cars in Edmonton and Calgary, and is looking to expand to other cities. How about expanding to Japan and Europe, getting city governments to outsource their often very expensive, inefficient, in-house 'elderly transport' arrangements?
Get started on that riveting brainstorming session ;-)
As we've mentioned before, this is just a snapshot. There are hundreds of other innovations for these audiences, in many other industries than discussed above. Therefore, the key opportunity is to get involved if you aren't already. It's a good lesson for execs, marketers and trend watchers alike: some big trends don't need years of research for you to figure out how to apply them. Whether it's women, the gay community, baby boomers, or other enduring favourites like health, wellness, metrosexuals and the environment.
Which is why we've dubbed these trends FOREVER TRENDS, which is not to say that they won't change. You will have to track them to see how they develop. But they're not question marks. They're proven, well-researched, established opportunities. And they make for the easiest brainstorming sessions. However, we assume you understand that to succeed, your team will have to include a number of women, boomers or gays. Actually asking your female, gay and senior customers to co-create with you is not going to hurt either.
For trends that are still fresh and emerging, continue to read our monthly trend briefings (no FOREVER TRENDS for a while, we promise) or check out our new 2008 Trend Report. Happy spotting and happy doing!
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